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Policing Murders in Pakistan

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Policing Murders in Pakistan

The right to life is, indeed, the most precious of human rights. For any society, it is the cornerstone, and a basic indicator, of safety and security. The Constitution of Pakistan also guarantees the right to life and obliges the state to protect it. Unfortunately, this right is being trampled upon on a daily basis in a most brazen manner. The chief cause of the violation of this right is the impunity that the perpetrators enjoy. They know that they can go scot-free even after committing the most heinous crime. Modern state response to murders is aggressive policing and certainty of punishment. A very relevant and recent example is the rejection of the appeal against the conviction of the murderers of Imran Farooq by the Islamabad High Court (reported as 2022 P. Cr. L. J). It is a known fact that Imran Farooq was murdered in London, the United Kingdom on the 16th of September 2010. His murderers escaped the UK and reached Pakistan via Sri Lanka. The police in the UK investigated the case, followed up with Pakistan’s authorities, sent their officers and lawyers to testify and present their investigation in the trial and secured the conviction of the offenders. Mr Farooq was not a citizen of the UK, but the realization was there in the UK that the offenders must be nabbed to ward off the perception of lawlessness and impunity. The police, prosecution and the judicial system of the UK acted in tandem to respond to the crime and ensured that the perpetrators, even in the absence of an extradition treaty between Pakistan and the UK, get punishment. Emulating this type of response by Pakistan’s legal and judicial system can restore the trust of Pakistanis in the country’s police, prosecution and judiciary. To do that, the leadership of Pakistan’s legal and judicial system must take stock of the situation. Blame game within various components of the criminal justice system is counterproductive and is eroding the belief of the citizens in the rule of law machinery of the country emboldening them to take the law into their own hands. Through this brief essay, an attempt will be made to share practitioner’s notes on some of the structural issues that go at the heart of policing murders in Pakistan; these issues are:
First, we must muster the will to reform. There is ample capacity, commitment and professionalism in police and prosecution departments in Pakistan, but the leadership needs to exhibit the real willpower to change the way things are done. The point of departure in this regard is organizational and internal reforms enabling professionalism to steer the course of things and to act in the best interest of the organizations and the public at large. Communication and reaching out to civil society and media may be a key to expressing the will as this may attribute reforms to the required level of centrality and mainstreaming. Often people talk about a ‘charter of economy’ between all political and non-political stakeholders in the country, but only a few hint at initiating a commitment to introduce a ‘charter of justice’. It is naïve to expect any economic prosperity unless there is peace and justice in the society. In terms of policing murders, the federation and the provinces must work in unison as required by articles 142 and 143 of the constitution. Without complementing the role of all the governmental structures, heinous crimes of murder cannot be effectively prevented, detected and prosecuted.
Secondly, there is a strong need to strategize on policing murders in the country. The strategy is to be rolled out by police and the key to preparing such a strategy is the availability of reliable statistics related to murders. Only after knowing the extent of the prevalence of crime can the police plan to prevent such egregious acts that fuel lawlessness in the country. Resource allocation is also linked to the accurate measurement of crime. Presently, police record murder crimes on the basis of information received. This makes the exercise passive. An active involvement would require not only including and counting all the under- and un-reported cases but also carrying out nuanced disaggregation of data to study the modus operandi, motives, causes and victim and perpetrator types. The underreported cases include murders committed on roads in the form of planned fatal accidents and the unreported cases involve incidents taking place in controlled environments like houses (e.g., honour killing). Active and accurate measurement of murders will improve the data sets of other components of the criminal justice system as the data sets of prosecution and judiciary are fed by police records. 
Thirdly, the law related to murders has seen a major recast. It was based on English criminal law till 1989 when it was substituted with Islamic criminal law (Qisas and Diyat regime). The mould of Islamic criminal law was qualitatively different from that of the English criminal law as the latter was supplemented with developed criminal procedure practices that were subjected to judicial reviews on the standards set by the English courts. Islamic criminal law, in terms of its objectives, caters to deterrent, restitution and restorative justice paradigms of criminology. It requires addressing the rights of the victims, the state and Allah Almighty. In practice, however, the courts in Pakistan confine the Islamic criminal law only to the rights of victims by privatizing murders. This privatization of murders has equated the compromises with civil contracts and the courts tend to show the deference of a contract to compromise affected without looking at the tripartite nature (state-victim-accused) of the matter. This treatment of murders as private matters (akin to civil or tortious wrongs) is at the nub of mischief and is affecting the whole criminal justice system. Predominantly, the police have, instead of collecting evidence and arresting perpetrators on the basis of it, started working as mediating agents with wheeling and dealing attitude to get cut in the blood money as ‘commission for services’. The prosecutors, likewise, have stopped preparing cases on the premise that adjudication will not take place if compromise is affected. In the same vein, the judges also find it convenient to wind up trials on the basis of compromises to earn quick credit for the disposal of cases. The procedural anomalies have nothing to do with Islamic criminal law; the primer behind the state of affairs is a procedural interpretation where adjective law has been given precedence over substantive law. Charging under one law or the other does not take away the right of the society and state to prosecute and punish culprits; confining murders to victims only is against the black letter law that leaves much authority in the hands of judges.
Fourthly, the murders of children and women must get special attention. Many cases are reported in the media in which young girls and boys get murdered after sexual abuse. Likewise, honour killings and aggravated domestic violence cases that end up in violent murders also need to be traced and legal processes of unnatural deaths in section 174 of the Code of Criminal Procedure must be streamlined by enhancing the level of their supervision within the police department. Cases of murder of children and women invite public wrath and fortify the perception that the state is failing vulnerable segments by not protecting them. Killing children can be prevented by maintaining a ‘sex offenders’ registry which must keep a record of persons convicted and arraigned for sex crimes. Such persons should be kept in check by regular technological surveillance as empirical evidence shows that they kill victims to conceal their identities. Likewise, their DNA database may also be maintained to ensure that it helps in reverse tracing the culprits.
Fifthly, targeted killing is being increasingly witnessed in urban centres of the country. These killings are committed, more often than not, by hired assassins. These hired assassins/murderers/shooters adopt criminal careers and often have criminal record, which if properly maintained, can connect them to the crime scenes. Anyone accused of murder in more than two cases must be red-flagged and his frequent telephonic contacts must be monitored closely. Travelling abroad of these shooters/killers must be conditioned with fresh police certificates to keep them under strict check.
Sixthly, in preventing murders, the supply of arms and ammunition along with strengthening the legal framework of aerial firing can bring about a major impact. The licencing of arms and ammunition needs to be fully regulated and laws related to attempts to kill and aerial firing must be amended enabling police, prosecution and judiciary to implement the law in letter and spirit.
Lastly, international and inter-provincial cooperation are areas where mutual legal assistance and dissemination of information against criminals must be fully explored. The global trend of entering into international treaties is now changing and international soft law in the form of statutorily-enabling provisions in national laws is making international cooperation much robust. The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) is taking centre stage insofar as the mutual arrangement of states is concerned. In addition, the International Police Organization (INTERPOL), which is continental in its origin, has started integrating its processes with the UN system. Pakistan is a member of all these institutions and must take full advantage of the systems put in place by the international community.
These structural issues are by no means exhaustive. Each province and territory of Pakistan has its own share of challenges to deal with policing murders. There is a greater need to enter into partnerships within governmental and non-governmental organizations to make sure that every individual is protected and the right to life is fully preserved.

The author is an independent researcher and has done his BCL from the University of Oxford. Email: kamranadilpsp@gmail.com

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